PAGES & CO: TILLY AND THE BOOK WANDERERS
by Anna James, HarperCollins Children’s Books, £12.99 (ebook £7.99)
BOOKS are certainly journalist Anna James’ thing, and that love she has for fiction is tangible in her debut children’s novel.
Matilda (Tilly), 11, lives with her grandparents, who run a higgledypiggledy bookshop called Pages & Co. which is bolstered by in-house cafe baker Jack (you will want to try his Folk Of The Faraway Tree-inspired honey pop cakes).
Tilly’s mother went missing shortly after Tilly’s birth, leaving the youngster with a lot of questions, which are exacerbated when she begins bumping into her favourite fictional characters – Alice of Wonderland and Anne of Green Gables – amongst the store’s bookshelves.
And so begin her adventures wandering directly into books. The story has a cosiness and warmth to it that’s irresistible – especially if you grew up burying yourself in fiction. However, at times it does lack tension; at no point do you feel that Tilly and her sidekick Oskar are in any genuine peril, despite the creepiness of the dour Enoch Chalk, who appears to be following them, and them being faced with the beheading-happy Queen of Hearts.
This lack of drama is compounded when the plot’s big reveal doesn’t quite thwack you with the ‘wow-factor’.
That said, it’s a very lovely and enchanting read, whether you’re a nine-year-old or a 49-year-old. Review by Ella Walker